A Troubled Heart.
Some fellow members of Baptist Church of the Redeemer and I visited a large church here in Houston on Sunday evening. Since we do not have a Sunday evening service, the elders and a few seminary students/members have been sampling others’ Sunday evening services in order to compare/contrast and find areas to learn from others and improve their own abilities. And I tagged along this past Sunday.
The pastor of this large church said that his message was that church is still relevant. He started out with a great introduction with some great statements- along the lines of the church needing to be more Biblical and that the things you hear at church on Sunday should carry over into Monday.
He had a good attention-getter- a compare/contrast of James Bond and Jason Bourne. He said that Bond knows who he is and that makes him a better spy. In contrast, Bourne does not know who he is, and his driving force is to find out who he is. He said that the church is like Jason Bourne: unsure of who it is. And that the church should be like Jason Bourne: motivated to find out who it is. And he said that the church should use the Bible to find out who it is.
Then everything plummeted. The bottom fell out.
After the slightly lengthy introduction, he read Acts 2:1-13. Then he preached a sermon that had nothing to do with Acts 2:1-13.
Acts 2:1-13 is about the miracle at Pentecost when the apostles were given the ability to speak to everybody that was there in their own dialects. There were people from 13 different geographical regions and they were all able to hear them in their own language.
He tried to use that to justify making his sermon “relevant.”
The problem is that his sermon had zero relevance. After reading the passage from Acts and telling a couple of personal stories, he digressed into an analysis of Swiss Army Knives. The purpose of this analysis was that there is now a swiss army knife that has a detachable mp3 player. He used this to imply that the church has to adapt to the modern world in order to be relevant.
Other than the brief reading of Acts 2:1-13, the Bible was absent from his sermon. By basing his sermon on his own stories, his own knowledge, his own understanding, and Swiss Army knives, he implied that the Bible is irrelevant. By spending more of his sermon talking about Swiss Army knives than the Word of God, he implied that Swiss Army knives are more relevant than the Bible. That Swiss Army knife with the mp3 player can do a lot of things, but it cannot replace the Bible. Based on his introduction, I gathered that he thinks the church is relevant. Based on the body of his sermon, I gathered that he thinks that the Bible is not relevant.
At the conclusion of his sermon, he said that a church is not a church without the Bible. Based on that measuring stick, his church is not a church. I would add to that statement that a sermon without the Bible is not a sermon. Therefore, his sermon was not a sermon.
All this has a negative feel to it, but it is with good intentions. I was both troubled and angered by what I saw at that church. By some measures, you could call his sermon good. I’m sure everybody there will remember that there is now a Swiss Army knife with a detachable mp3 player.
However, the sermon was not good because of what it lacked.
I said earlier that the Bond-Bourne comparison was a good attention-getter. A majority of Americans know the names James Bond and Jason Bourne. However, what about the people who have not heard of them? And what about the people who have heard of them, but haven’t seen the movies? And what about the people who have seen the movies and did not like them?
A better attention-getter would have been something that is true for every person in that church that night. And something that is true for every person reading this:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23
There is a God and He created everything in this universe. If you don’t believe that it is only because you refuse to. All it takes to see that there is a God is to open your eyes. He is everywhere. If you allow the slightest chance that there is a God, then you will be overwhelmed by the evidence that He is out there.
We have all sinned. There is not one person alive who has not tripped, literally or figuratively, in this life.
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” –Jesus, in Matthew 5:20
One sin is all it takes to keep us out of the kingdom of heaven. For the God who created this universe with such immaculate precision- if we were any closer to the sun we would burn, or any farther away we would freeze; if there was any more gravity we would not be able to move freely, or any less gravity we would not be held to the earth- one sin leaves us too unclean to enter His presence.
We have all sinned and we have all earned the judgement of God. The only thing that we deserve from God is hell.
Hell is a terrible thing, but God displays justice by sending people there.
We have all at least at one time in our lives turned our backs on God. We have at least once chosen our own glory or the pleasures of this world over God’s glory and God’s pleasures.
Due to His infinite greatness, choosing glory other than His and pleasure apart from His ONE time deserves infinite punishment.
Therefore, if anybody is to reach the kingdom of heaven, he or she must be reconciled with God. Every sin must be accounted for before a person is fit to enter the presence of God.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” –the apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
There is historical evidence that Jesus performed miracles and conquered death. The extreme spreading of the early Christian church in the face of brutal murders. The fact that so many were willing to die and did die for their beliefs that Jesus rose from the dead and was the Messiah. These things cannot be explained by anything other than The Resurrection.
Earlier I used the extremity of one thing to explain its opposite. God’s extreme greatness justifies extreme punishment for sins against Him.
Similarly, the extreme ramifications of Jesus conquering death deserve extremities.
The ramifications of Jesus conquering death are enormous. Because He conquered death, we know that He truly was and is the Son of God. Because He conquered death, he is worthy of honor and praise and worship, and He is worth living for.
His death also reconciles us with God, and by putting our faith in Jesus, seeking to live for Him, and valuing Him above everything else this world has to offer we adopt His righteousness. He is the only creature in the history of the world that lived a spotless life. Just as the spotless lamb reconciled the people of Israel with God in the BC, Jesus is the spotless lamb who dies our death and is the only way that we can enter the presence of God.
So just as hell is a just punishment for sinning against God and His infinite greatness, there is only one reaction that can be justified in response to God giving us a way out of the infinite punishment of His wrath in hell. Because hell is infinite punishment and infinite torture, salvation from hell deserves infinite praise and infinite love and infinite worship. Just as hell is awful and terrible, God’s gift of salvation through Christ is great and wonderful to the same degree.
The message of God’s glory in salvation through judgement is the message that everybody needs to hear. That is the message that the people in that church needed to hear. That is the message of the Bible, and that is why the Bible is relevant nearly 2000 years after It was composed. Church is relevant today, but it is not relevant without the Bible.
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